In “‘Man is more than an overdeveloped monkey’: Raymond Tallis explains why he has declared a war of words on the trendy ideas that underpin ‘neuromania’ and ‘Darwinitis’” ( Spiked, Tim Black writes,
There is a chill to Tallis’s lament. Whether in the form of neuromania or its close relative Darwinitis, we stand reduced, degraded. We are no longer being seen as the source of our actions; we are no longer understood as creatures of reason; we are no longer being deemed capable of making decisions rationally, let alone striving idealistically. Instead we are deemed subject to forces beyond our control, mere organic matter caught on the wind of physical laws. Of course, we may think we’re acting rationally, we may believe that we freely choose to follow a particular course of action. But that is an illusion. In the words of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s masterpiece of pseudoscience Nudge, we are not the rational Homo Economicus of Scottish Enlightenment myth, we are the non-rational Homo Sapiens of contemporary reality. Or worse still, we are what the glib misanthrope John Gray called Homo Rapiens, a ‘serv[ant] to evolutionary success, not truth’.
This sense that our minds are not what we thought they were, that it’s our brains, and the natural-physical causal network of which they are part, that is really calling the shots has been lovingly embraced by politicos on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s a development that worries Tallis: ‘That’s when [neuromania] gets dangerous rather than merely irritating – when people start invoking brain science as a guide to social policy, as a guide to understanding criminal behaviour and so on.
He’s right, of course. In the hands of an idiot, directed by a thug, a brain scanner is a tool of oppression, not information.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose